14 March 2013


It is a rare treat to get hold of early sheet music of the jazz classics. When you have tried to pick up a tune by ear, it is so good to see the original music and find out whether you got it right.

I came across the sheet music for Handy's Yellow Dog Blues (originally, it seems, also called The Yellow Dog Rag) in my computer's archives and can't remember how it came to be there. But I think it must be thanks to the great Audrey VanDyke.

I have never had the pleasure of meeting Audrey, who lives somewhere in Michigan, I think. But during the years since I started taking an interest in traditional jazz, I have learned that the world owes her a great debt of gratitude for her scholarship relating to early jazz, for her enthusiasm and especially for building up a large collection of vintage sheet music and making much of it available to the rest of us through the Internet.

As for Yellow Dog Blues, yes: I think most bands play it in a way Handy would have admired - with the long narrative Verse (three blocks of twelve bars each) about the woes of Miss Susie Johnson, followed by the Chorus (two blocks of twelve bars, each with that great rising opening  - Ea - sy Ri - der.... ). But I doubt whether many bands these days consider it as a piece in 2/4 time. We treat it as 4/4. And I don't know of any band playing it in Handy's original key of D. Eb is preferred.